Friday, 20 August 2010

SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD review

Due for imminent release is Michael Cera and Edgar Wright's new film Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. I've already seen it.
More after the jump...



22 year old Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) lives a precious little life up in Toronto, Canada. He's the bassist for his band Sex Bob-Omb, and he's got his own groupie in the shape of 17 year old Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Scott's also just met the love of his life, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but if he's going to date her, he must first defeat her 7 evil exes.


Scott Pilgrim is the third film from director Edgar Wright, known for Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. He has a well established style that incorporates whip-pans and sound effects, and his films also tend to be loaded with references to popular culture (a trait picked up whilst making the 90's slacker-com, Spaced). Well, this film is a kind of pop culture blender of films, games and music. It's somewhat like a hyperactive child, ticking and burring its way across 2 hours.


When Scott gets drawn into a battle with Ramona's evil exes, the fight scenes are a blend of Tekken, Street Fighter and the 60's Batman series. Bad guys explode into piles of coins, and point bonuses and 1-UP's are offered for the victor. Ramona's had a diverse dating life, and her exes range from Hollywood movie stars to Vegan superheroes, so Scott really has no idea who's coming next.


People of a certain age just wont get the references to films and games. In the screening I attended there was a clear divide between the people who were getting it and those who weren't, and the two sides were usually identifiable by whether they were wearing a film reference t-shirt or not.


If you were a child of the late 80's or 90's and owned a NES or a Mega Drive, this film is an absolute joy to the ears. There's so many sound bites and stings littering the film that give you a tremendous sense of nostalgia. At one point there's a mini re-creation of the Seinfeld theme tune, complete with a Kramer style entrance and the requisite audience cheer. I nearly wet myself laughing. But much like the grungy music the bands in the film play, the 'grown-ups' in the audience will just think of it all as noise.


And that's the major flaw in the film. It will certainly appeal to a select audience, but it's not overly accessible (in fact it's damn near impenetrable) to those unfamiliar with the original books or the media it references. On top of that though, of the characters taken from the books a lot of them have lost their impact. It was bound to happen when condensing 6 books down to 2 hours, and a lot of the background characters wouldn't need to be fully fleshed out, but this loss of impact unfortunately includes lead girl Ramona Flowers. She's just not as delightfully hip and lovable in her cinematic incarnation, mostly due to some unclear backstory and motivations. You can still see why Scott falls for her, but some of the audience might prefer to see him end up with Knives Chau, and that shouldn't be.


Of the characters who do still resonate, Scott's gay roommate Wallace Wells is among the highlights. He's obnoxious and condescending towards Scott in all the right ways, and Kieran Culkin's going to have people shouting "kick her in the balls!" at him in the street.


This is definitely a step forward for Michael Cera, proving he has more than one string to his acting bow. His nervous charm is still present, but Scott Pilgrim is a much more cockier (if slightly clueless) character than what Cera usually plays.


The film's pace is so consistently non-stop that they occasionally have to rattle through some of the evil exes. It's clearly set out that Scott Pilgrim has to battle 7 people, and at times you'll be waiting for the next battle, only to see it pass by in a slight whimper. Chris Evans and Brandon Routh stand out as their respective exes, but their battles are among the tamest. The bar is set high with the first fight against Matthew Patel, and none of the remaining fights quite match up to it.


This includes Scott's climactic showdown against Gideon Gordon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). He's Scott's nemesis and rival for the affections of Ramona, and is played delightfully dastardly by Schwartzman, but the scale of the fight doesn't quite match the build up. It's a slightly muddled ending that fails to bring the epic epicness to life.


I can't wait for the DVD so I can watch this film frame by frame. It really is a work of art that could only have been made by Edgar Wright. It's fantastically crafted, and has a thousand little touches (the aspect ratio changes, the pee bar graphics) that make it wholly unique. Each punch that lands is embellished with a single frame animated shot that really make the impacts resonate. It's a triumph of editing that could see a whole new term applied to fast cutting. Nevermind MTV editing or Hip-Hop montages, it's now the Pilgrim edit.


For fans of the books, it's the most faithful adaptation you could ever wish for. For those new to Scott Pilgrim, it's hard to tell you what to expect. It will divide opinion tremendously and will infuriate those who are less culturally savvy, but for a certain age range there's so much to enjoy here.


Verdict

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